Hollywoodland Feb 21 2017
PURE DYNAMITE
New tabloid explodes onto the gossip scene.

When we describe Dynamite as a new tabloid, it's only partly true. It was a new imprint. But its publisher, the Modern Living Council of Connecticut, Inc., was headquartered at the Charlton Building in Derby, Connecticut, which is where Top Secret and Hush-Hush based operations. When you see that Dynamite carried the same cover font as Top Secret and Hush-Hush, and that those two magazines advertised in Dynamite, it seems clear that all three had the same provenance. But unlike Top Secret and Hush-Hush, it doesn't seem as if Dynamite lasted long. The issue above, which appeared this month in 1956, is the second. We are unable to confirm whether there was a third. But if Dynamite was short-lived it wasn't because of any deficiencies in the publication. It's identical in style to other tabloids, and its stories are equally interesting.

One of those deals with Henry von Thyssen, the Dutch born, German descended heir to an industrial fortune, and his wife, Nina Dyer, heiress to a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, back then called Ceylon. The von Thyssen family manufactured steel in Germany, including for Hitler's Third Reich, and came out of World War II unscathed, as big companies that profit from war always do. Dyer was a dilettante famed for making bikinis popular on the French Riveria. According to Dynamite, von Thyssen was so desperate to marry Dyer that he allowed her to keep her boyfriend, the French actor Christian Marquand. Society gossips whispered,but both spouses were fine with the set-up until von Thyssen accidentally ran into Dyer and Marquand in Carrol's nightclub in Paris and was forced to save face by starting a fight. The couple soon divorced, but not because of infidelity, as many accounts claim. What finally broke the couple up was that Dyer dropped Marquand. Dynamite tells readers: “[von Thyssen] has ditched his sloe-eyed Baroness because now she's decided she loves him.”

Interesting, but there are many similar stories about open high society marriages. What interested us, really, was the portrayal of Dyer. Apparently she had at some point been strongly influenced by Asian women. Her husband described her as “soft and feminine and oriental looking.” Dynamite painted this word picture: “She walks as though she has a water pot balanced on her head, her dark, slanting eyes are inscrutable, and her movements are so languorous and cat-like that von Thyssen gave her a baby panther as a companion.” Dyer eventually had two panthers, and was often seen walking them on the Croisette in Cannes. After her marriage to von Thyssen ended she quickly married Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, but that marriage ended in divorce. Over the years she had been given many gifts. Besides the panthers there were cars, jewels, and a Caribbean island. But the one thing money never bought for her was happiness. She committed suicide at age thirty-five.

There's a lot more to learn about Nina Dyer—her modeling career, her adventures in the south of France, her free-spirited ways in the Caribbean, her 1962 E-Type Jaguar Roadster that was found in Jamaica in 2015 and restored for a November 2016 auction, and more. So we'll be getting back to her a little later. We still have about fifty tabloids from the mid-1950s and we're betting she appears in more than a few. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Dynamite is a story tracking Marilyn Monroe's movements around Fire Island during a summer 1955 vacation, a report about Frank Sinatra being barred from the Milroy Club in London, an exposé on prostitution in Rome, a breakdown of the breakdown of Gene Tierney's engagement to Aly Khan (Sadruddin Aga Khan's brother), and a couple of beautiful photos of Diana Dors. We have about thirty scans below for your enjoyment. Odds are we'll never find another issue of Dynamite, but we're happy to own even one. It's great reading.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 17 2016
YOUR PLACE OR MINE
I know, but we're not going upriver. We're going to my shack down by the industrial canal. Should do us just fine.

Brian Harwin's novel Home Is Upriver appeared in 1952, with this Signet paperback arriving in 1955, and concerns the coming of age along the Mississippi River of the orphaned Kip, who finds a home with married couple Buck and Martha, but promptly screws it up by deciding to screw their daughter Storm. The book may be better known these days by its 1959 title Touch Me Not. Brian Harwin was a pen name for author Le Grand Henderson. We know. Why would you change your name from Le Grand Henderson, when that's as writerly a name as can be, whereas Brian Harwin sounds like a guy from high school who ran a hardware store for a few years then you heard he maybe moved back east? Well, it turns out Henderson actually did make use of his amazing name. He published children's books as simply Le Grand, and many of those too take place along the Mississippi River. He was actually born in Connecticut, but his love of the Mississippi blossomed after he undertook a yearlong houseboat journey from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. This would have been during the Great Depression and we can only imagine that the adventure was le grand. Home Is Upriver was the only book he wrote as Harwin. If you want to see its Touch Me Not incarnation, which has excellent Robert Maguire art, we suggest looking at our collection of swamp, bayou, and river paperbacks here.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 30 2015
BOILED HOT DOG
You know, you’re really quite a lovely little… GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

Above we see the instant before the main character on the cover of Yankee Trader realizes boiling water has been poured atop his wiener. Okay, that’s not what really happens, though he would deserve it. The story is set in colonial Connecticut and Africa, and he's a slave trader and all around scoundrel who will stop at nothing to get rich. We checked a review from 1947, when the book was originally published, and critic W.E. Hall admitted that, yes, it’s true early American colonists were guilty of “misdemeanors” against Africans. Misdemeanors? Slavery, murder, and rape? Oh, what a lovely dream world where these are mere lapses of decorum. Maybe it’s Hall who needed to have his wiener parboiled. 1952 on this Pyramid paperback, with uncredited art.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 30 2011
FACTS OF LIFE
Sometimes it seems Life is such a fragile thing.

Paris Life, of which you see a cover above, was a quarterly magazine published not in France, but in Derby, Connecticut, yet which nonetheless purported to give readers the scoop on Parisian nightlife. Connecticut is not exactly the nerve center of international reporting, but the magazine seems to have had someone working for them across the pond, because there are scores of photos—far too many to be simple handouts. Probably, the Connecticut base was only in name—for tax reasons—and the actual mag was headquartered in NYC. But that's only a guess. Anyway, the cover star here is French-Canadian actress/model/singer Simone Auger, the centerfold is German dancer Dorothea Schneider, aka Dodo, and besides those two you get all kinds of showgirl photos, printed poorly on cheap paper, which is why our scans are a bit rough. We're certain there's a way to avoid those Moiré patterns you'll see on the images, but whatever that method is, we aren't going to explore it on on a Friday, when a bottle of fine red wine is breathing in the other room. Maybe we'll re-scan this one down the line, though that may prove difficult, considering the magazine partially disintegrated as we handled it. Just for the sake of preserving as much of this pile of brittle paper as we could, we made twenty-five scans instead of the usual five or six. Also, if you're curious, we located the photo from which the cover was made, and you can see that here. 

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Femmes Fatales Nov 12 2010
BEST VIRGINIA
A Field guide to getting what you want from life.


British actress Virginia Field, who appeared in forty films, including 1949’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and the 1950 film noir Dial 1119. 

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Hollywoodland Feb 1 2010
RIP OFF HIS ROCKER
Does this look like a guy who’s responsible for his actions?

Actor Rip Torn, best known for his role as Zed in the sci-fi blockbuster Men in Black, was found Friday inside Lichfield Bancorp, a Connecticut bank, drunk and carrying a loaded handgun. Police arrested the 78-year-old and charged him with first-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree trespassing, and possession of a firearm without a permit. Quite a laundry list. The mug shot here is actually from a previous arrest, but we’ll just assume he looked more or less the same Friday. Anyway, we laid out the rules for American justice in yesterday’s post—the richest person or entity wins. Torn is, one would assume, reasonably well off, which means he’d walk from this crime if he broke into, say, your house. But since he broke into a bank, he’s basically screwed. His only chance is to blame it on alcohol. That’s a lot like shooting someone, then rubbing the gun’s nose in the victim’s blood and screaming, “Bad weapon!” But for some reason, it seems to work for celebs.

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Mondo Bizarro Dec 11 2009
MAKER'S MARK
Moses the calf is either a sign from God or proof of evolution.

A calf was born this yuletide season—but not just any calf. This one has a cross on its head. It was born in Connecticut on the farm of Brad Davis and Megan Johnson. At first, the newborn’s cruciform marking was obscured because his mother Fuzzy had rearranged it by licking the fur on his head. But when the calf dried, his owners beheld the cross and they were amazed. “It was really quite a sight,” Davis told his local newspaper. “The first night that he was here, when we shut the lights out late at night, the only thing you could see in here was that cross showing in the dark. It was really quite a feeling. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, actually.” Co-owner Johnson says Moses will never see the inside of a slaughterhouse. “We’re going to make sure he gets a good life and doesn’t get eaten,” she promised. 

Over on the opposite side of the cultural chasm, an evolutionary scientist would suggest that Moses is not a sign from God but rather a textbook example of natural selection. Because of a pattern that randomly appeared on the calf’s head, he gets to live to a ripe old age rather than end up as a Big Kahuna Burger, which means the likelihood he’ll one day sire an offspring with a cross on its head is fractionally higher. Each time a similar pattern appears, there’s a chance that cow will likewise be spared the abbatoir and will in turn reproduce, which means, given thousands of years, an entire species of untouchable cows might be roaming the American landscape with crosses on their heads. So is Moses an example of divine intervention or Darwinian science? Let the debate begin.

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Intl. Notebook Jul 10 2009
CINDER THE CLOWNS

Photos of a fire that engulfed the world’s largest bigtop at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford, Connecticut, July 6, 1944. 168 people were killed, but amazingly, no animals.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 24
1954—Communist Party Outlawed
In the U.S., during the height of the Red Scare, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Communist Control Act into law. The new legislation bans the American Communist Party, and prohibits people deemed to be communists from serving as officials in labor organizations.
1968—France Explodes Nuke
France tests a two-stage nuclear weapon, codenamed Canopus, on Fangataufa, French Polynesia.
August 23
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
August 22
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
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